CCFOI Update

By James H. Smith
President, CCFOI

We at the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information are hopeful for the first time since 2012, that the state will open historical medical records to the public.

A CCSU history professor has been blocked from doing research at Connecticut Valley Hospital into the treatment of “Soldier’s Heart,” the Civil War term for what we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder. A Connecticut author has been denied the records on Amy Archer Gilligan, the infamous mass murderer whose story was the genesis for the play “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

The Government, Administration and Elections Committee is raising its own bill to make such records public after 75 years (the National Archives rule), a significant step by the committee, considering that our previous attempts failed at getting the legislation to the floor. At this point, it is looking good.

CCFOI is poised to support expected legislation again requiring the UCONN Foundation to open its books to the public. It remains an uphill battle even though Connecticut is the only New England state that allows its premiere public university to keep secret so much of what the foundation does.

We have testified in behalf of CT-N’s proposal to expand its service on covering governmental meetings, including the judiciary. CT-N’s plan (S.B. 104) would authorize the creation of a new State Civic Network available to citizens wherever they are, on whatever platform they use. It would establish an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan management entity, similar in structure to community access television, and overseen by the Public Utility Regulatory Authority. It would be funded by a monthly subscriber fee, estimated to cost customers less than 50 cents a month, similar to how C-SPAN and community access stations are funded.

To quote Mitch Pearlman’s testimony in favor of the bill: “A new generation of CT-N needs to be created to manage and anticipate technological innovations transforming the way citizens receive, access and interact with information about the public policy issues facing Connecticut. It would improve coverage of all three branches of government. It would add context to what is happening, making information easily accessible and useful. It would incorporate programming, education and outreach focused on building civic skills.”

We are also in touch with citizens interested in making sure school bullying records are kept by local school officials and the amount of bullying that is happening is public information. Whether legislation is proposed this year remains to be seen.

CCFOI is in its 61st year. Our board meets monthly (except July and August) and we welcome people to join us and get involved.